It’s been a while since the old browser got a major makeover.
In recent years, the big players have all but taken over the market, and this may have put the squeeze on innovation. It’s simply harder to make drastic changes to your product when you have a large user base. Just look at the backlash Facebook faces every time it changes something.
Data from NetMarketShare suggests that the Big Three’s (Google, Microsoft and Mozilla) browsers account for about 95 per cent of the market.
And while companies such as Vivaldi and Microsoft have made forays into changing the web-browsing experience, both their attempts feel like enhancements rather than reimaginings.
In order to combat this, Norwegian developer Opera has just released Opera Neon, an experimental desktop browser that aims to remove desktop clutter by using a visual approach to browsing.
When you first open Opera Neon you’ll see some little orb-thingies. These are essentially visual tabs and they float around as you browse. Opera users will be familiar with this concept; it’s a fun new take on the Speed Dial from their vanilla browser.
According to the official site, where you can download the browser for yourself, Neon has a newly developed physics engine. This promises to “breathe life back into the internet” by giving tabs and other objects real weight and natural movements.
We get it – it’s pretty.
Other features such as a video pop-out, split screen mode, a rebuilt omnibox and improved visual tabs have been added in an attempt to lure people into a new way of browsing. And Like Microsoft Edge, Opera Neon also features the ability to crop, snap and save images directly from the browser.
It all seems like good fun, and Opera has stressed that this is just a “concept browser” and not meant to replace Opera’s existing browser. Perhaps the company just wants to try something new, since last year a large stake of it was reportedly bought out by a Chinese consortium.
Last month, PC Mag reviewed Opera Neon and found that while visually stunning, it suffered from some serious stability issues. These problems may have been ironed out by now, so your mileage may vary.
Over at Microsoft, the Edge is doing its best to make you forget about the ancient (and ugly) Internet Explorer. The company has just released a teaser video about the Windows 10 Creators Update. In it, you can see such features as an eBook reader, wallet integration and Web VR.
In the meantime, if you are looking for an alternative to Firefox, Chrome, Edge or Safari – and Opera Neon looks a bit too crazy – you might consider Vivaldi.
Start by cosying up at the fire with Founder/CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, who explains the reason behind the browser in this video. Incidentally, he was also one of the founders of Opera, so this whole business is a little incestuous.
Vivaldi is based on Chromium, which is the same open source code that powers Chrome. However, it isn’t just a Chrome clone, Vivaldi is packed with features that make it unique. With Web Panels, for example, you can open web pages side-by-side. It’s not the first time this has been possible – Opera did something similar – but it’s still a neat trick.
In addition, Vivaldi is deeply customisable, so is perhaps more geared at power users. You can alter the appearance, activate or deactivate features and create shortcuts and gestures.
When tech companies compete, we all stand to win.
Hopefully, the minor shakeup that appears to be happening in the browser world will lead to better web browsing experiences for everyone.